Live a little

Come and sit by me, I want a chat.

Photo 02-11-2014 04 06 30 pm

I feel two-dimensional, often, as the mother of two toddlers.

And I need a better way of categorising them than that, for a start. ‘Two toddlers’ is too brief to convey the sweat and tears and bruises and seesawing emotions. It says nothing about the early mornings, disturbed nights, battleground mealtimes, or constant anticipating and managing of their shifting moods.

It doesn’t talk about how they’re both toddlers, but at different stages with entirely different needs, and yet all of those needs are relentless and all the time, every minute that they’re awake.

It doesn’t get across the joy of it, either – the absolute heart-hurting beauty of their expansion and questioning and love. What a privilege it is to watch. How often I fall short of the trust they place in me, because they have to, because I make everything they know.

It consumes me. I never wanted to be consumed.

Over the summer I started getting twitchy about how much time Tim was spending on his bike. We have always encouraged each other to pursue our own interests: the ones that we fell in love with in the first place, that make us well-rounded people. But I was irritated by his ‘time off’ not because he wasn’t allowed it, but because I couldn’t think of anything I could do for myself in turn. I asked myself what my hobbies were, and came up with a buzzing blank. All of my thinking, writing, talking: all of it, about these boys.

Let me say that I know this time is short, and I will miss it when it’s gone.

Let me say that I believe creating and moulding this family will be the most important thing I will ever do.

Let me say that, despite all that, because of all that, I need to show them that I am their mother with my whole person. There are depths beyond the business of their immediate care. There are places I find joy that no one else can touch.Β They need to see it. If I do not start by showing them that women are three-dimensional, complex and interesting, how will they believe it of the women they will meet later?

I was revolving this around late one night, yearning for something I couldn’t put into words. What is it? I thought. What is it I want?

The answer came, eventually.

I want a richer life.


I’ve had that in my head as summer has deepened into autumn.Β A richer life. Not a different one, and not a busier one, but one with better things in it. More little things that make me happy. More balance. More connections. More attention to my spirit. If the canvas of my day felt like mostly pastel watercolour, I wanted oils. Have you ever seen a Van Gogh close up? The brush strokes are tiny, but every one of them is richly coloured and meaningfully placed. It’s one of the reasons I love him so much.

Um, I’m getting carried away.

I think it’s worth a shot, though, so I’ve been trying hard to put little dots of richness into my everyday. Here are some of the ideas I’ve been trying out:

– spending more time outdoors, in nature

– expressing appreciation to friends

– starting a book club

– choosing our family activities more carefully, so we’re outside/interacting/seeing new things/performing service

– exercising a couple of times a week (WHAT, I KNOW)

– using the fancy pottery and napkins at dinner

– having flowers on the table

– making my phone harder to reach from bed

– buying the good ice cream

– resurrecting old interests in art, history, music, theatre, and making dates to enjoy them

Not all of them at once. I’m not looking to be more stressed, just better balanced. I am in here somewhere, and so are you. So I am choosing little things, richly coloured, meaningfully placed. To help me feel like I can stand out on the canvas. Life in oils.

I think I’m starting to feel better.

Photo 01-11-2014 10 53 26 am

So tell me, because I need solidarity: have you ever caught yourself being COMPLETELY wrapped up in what you do for your kids? And what weird and wonderful interests do you have (or once have) that make you yourself? I can name the wigs in any episode of Alias you care to mention, and could tell you some things about the Tudor court that would make your hair curl.

16 thoughts on “Live a little

  1. I love drinking out of crystal glasses and eating off china plates.
    My husband has to put everything in the dishwasher. I know you shouldn’t put crystal in the dishwasher so I only buy inexpensive crystal glasses and wear them out with everyday, dishwasher use. I also buy second hand bone china for everyday use.

  2. Oh Rachel, this post speaks directly to my soul today. Thank you! Thank you for making me feel less alone and for the ideas on how to make my life richer without being overwhelmed. πŸ™‚

  3. I needed this today. I always swore I would never be one of the women who felt lost or those that said they were not smart anymore bc they were at home – but this third one has done me completely in and I have felt overwhelmingly invisible along with the exhaustion. I keep trying to come up with ways to find me again, but they all take time and effort which is just not there, but I love your richness idea! I can make what I can do a little deeper without feeling like I am missing out on all the details that make this time just as amazing as it is difficult. Keep sharing what you are doing, I need all the ideas I can get

    • Oh Heather, I cannot IMAGINE what it must be like with three! Two feels like juggling monkeys. This is the problem I had, too – I wanted to do more for me, but had no time! So I’ve been trying to focus on little things that don’t take lots more time but mean more. Still a tricky one. But I do feel better. Hope you do too – love to all of you! x

  4. I always put a cloth on the table for dinner even when the girls were little, makes me feel part of a line because my mom did. I love the sky and would frequently point out the beauty of it to my family – we laugh at it now.. I say ‘oh look ‘ and someone says ‘we know …. The sky’ and we chuckle together and remember all those times I said it when they were little. Makes me smile writing this, and one day I will learn to paint ….

    • I love this! I’ve become a big fan of making the dinner table pretty lately. Tim doesn’t see the boys for very long in the evenings, so it’s actually quite special time – so why not make it a bit fancy? And I love that you still have those little moments with your girls. Hope it’s all going well over there!

  5. First : You write beautifully.

    Why does it feel selfish and indulgent to be a mother AND want to do something for ourselves?

    I have struggled with this for a long time but now I actually feel that my children get a better ME when I ‘indulge’ my passions and do stuff I love – painting and writing. My children are my biggest fans. Comments like, “Mama, you’re so creative,” blow me away – it means more, you know?

    Go for it and make yourself feel better everyday.

    Z x

    ps. I always wear lovely underwear that matches. So whatever mess I look like on the outside, underneath there is order. No one else knows but me!

    • I love everything about this comment. Couldn’t agree more that my children get a better me when I make time for things I love. They’re happier when I’m happier, and I get the opportunity to pass on passions to them.

      I love that you paint. Always wanted to try. And the underwear idea is genius πŸ™‚ x

  6. YES! oh man yes. I find myself having to take time and rediscover who I am and what I like every few years. Lately I realized its about “filling me up” or “replenishing who I am” so I can be a better more balanced momma. Nights out to get pie with a few close friends, a good book, learning something new especially a new skill. All these things remind me I am smart and capable as a person and that makes me feel like a more capable mother, wife and woman!

  7. This speaks right to my heart. We just had our second and I feel my life is for them and not myself. I loooove being their for them – but between them and church responsibilities I have lost myself somewhere. But I love your thoughts – in small gestures I can find myself again. Thank you

    Love the blog by the way!

    • Oh goodness, I want to hug you – the early days of newborn+older child are wonderful but SO all-consuming. It is so easy to forget everything but their day-to-day care.
      You can do it. You’re right – little things. I’m right there with you!
      Thanks for reading πŸ™‚ x

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